Man's LDS mission inspired bringing light to Ghana

A Utah engineer's idea to light up western Africa using kid power is going round and round.

Empower Playgrounds Inc. builds special merry-go-rounds that generate power for lights in villages where electricity is scarce or not found at all.

The nonprofit started three years ago with one playground generator in Ghana. Now 10 merry-go-rounds have been installed and EPI has plans for 25 more in 2010.

"If you want a peaceful Earth, you have got to get rid of the differences," EPI founder Ben Markham said. "You can't have some countries with high technology and other countries still not have light at night. Help the lower end catch up, and you're setting a foundation to change the world."

Markham says he got the idea while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He saw how dark it was in the concrete block schools and wondered how the children were expected to learn.

Markham, a retired engineer, worked with Brigham Young University students to develop a merry-go-round that could harness enough energy to power special lanterns. Students could use the lanterns to study at night, a huge development for villages located outside Ghana's spotty electrical grid.

EPI has also developed and installed an electricity-generating swing set, and a zip-line is in the works.

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